Monday, June 18, 2012

Happy Father's Day

An American Hero.

I just came across this story over at Angry Asian Man - a man of Vietnamese descent living in Iowa, has been charged with three counts of attempted murder and one count of intimidation with a dangerous weapon after he shot at his neighbours following years of being on the receiving end of racial harassment and intimidation. The incident took place after Pham had being verbally abused and threatened by his neighbour who had banged on Pham's door and demanded that he come out and fight. According to his family, the normally even tempered and  law-abiding Pham, snapped after years of similar intimidation and defended himself in the only language his racist neighbour apparently could understand. Here's more.......
Family members of a Cedar Rapids man accused of trying to kill his neighbors say he snapped after enduring years of racial slurs, broken windows and thrown feces..... 
....Police said the shooting stemmed from a disagreement between the two men. Pham’s family contends it started years earlier, citing police reports, a restraining order and even a lawsuit as evidence of years of harassment from neighbors, including Wilson and Moses..... 
..Both Springer and Kathie Pham said Joseph Pham had called the police several times, but the harassment continued.... 
..Pham filed a lawsuit in 2010 against Jamie Moses, Tracy Moses’ ex-husband. He claimed Moses had broken two windows of the Phams’ home, driven his vehicle in their yard and torn up the grass, destroyed their mail, fired a shotgun over their property, contacted DirecTV to cancel their service and thrown feces at Kathie Pham. The lawsuit seeks damages including emotional distress, pain and suffering, property damage, punitive damages and court costs... 
...Springer said Saturday’s incident began when Pham was working outside and Brian Wilson came up to the fence and started making racial slurs. He told Pham to come outside and fight him, Pham’s niece said, and then he went to the front door and started banging on it.
This is a common experience for Asian people and it is one of the ways that anti-Asian racism is perpetuated to keep Asians in their place. The way it works is that some anti-Asian racist will provoke and harass an Asian, but because this type of behaviour is normalized in American society (in fact, its cultural depictions of Asians can be said to be a form of racial harassment) any attempts at self-defence are reined in by authorities and the media.

This story from 2009, the LA riots of twenty years ago, and now Pham's story illustrate one of the ways that anti-Asian racism is perpetuated in society. In the case of the student, he acted just like any other school-age boy would have acted, but school authorities overlooked the racial harassment that he had been subjected to, and allowed the boy who had perpetrated it to go unpunished, whilst at the same time the Asian boy is suspended and criminally charged. In the case of the LA riots, the Koreans were targeted because of their race, and were widely castigated by the media for defending themselves.

On a personal note - and some of you readers may have experienced something similar - my first experience of racism occurred the day after I started school when I was five. Two boys a year ahead of me started using racial slurs and physically attacking me in full view of teachers and playground monitors who watched but did nothing. I put up with it for a day and a half, until lunchtime on my third day of school when I turned on my tormentors after they had again kicked and punched me and started flailing on one of them. The other kid became afraid and ran off like a bitch to tell a teacher. Of course, the two white boys were given no reprimand but I, on the other hand, was angrily scolded and told that I was a thug. Luckily for me, but not for the school, my parents didn't stay quiet and they marched up  to the school with some extended family members and made sure the school understood the error that they had made.

As you can see, in all of these situations, mainstream America is empowered to openly commit acts of racial violence and harassment against Asians, yet it is the Asian victims who are castigated when we retaliate (like any human being would do) in any shape or form. This is one of the ways that anti-Asian prejudice is propagated throughout American society and it is how mainstream America effectively sanctions racial baiting and violence towards Asian people.

That's why it is possible for anti-Asian prejudice to be openly expressed by Americans of all kinds, from hate-driven neighbours to the most popular cultural figures and influential politicians, and especially notable is the degree of hate crimes being committed against Asian children in America's schools. Yes, it is true that media depictions normalize anti-Asian attitudes, but it is the apathy, or particpation of institutions and authorities that uphold this normalization of racist behaviours.

Vilifying and criminalizing Asians who have been pushed over the edge emotionally and physically by persistent racial harassment or violence in their daily lives, and probably compounded by routine and pervasive anti-Asian racism in America's media, is tantamount to legitimizing the practice. In regards to this latter point it is worth remembering that there is a scene in the recent Men In Black III movie in which the two heroes find humour in racial murder and employ slapstick violence to basically re-enact the racist murder of Vincent Chin - turning racial violence against Asians into a normal function of the interaction with Asian people. It should be no surprise then, that some Asians are pushed to the very edge of endurance in the face of persistent and pervasive racism.

On this score we should also remember the death of Asian-American soldier, Danny Chen, who committed suicide after enduring weeks of racial abuse from other members of his unit. His tormentors are likely to be punished with a severe slap on the wrist. It would seem that these are the choices offered to Asian-Americans; endure racism passively and good naturedly or commit suicide. The third choice of defending yourself and your family in the same way that white Americans are expected to (after all, the hero who, often violently, stands up to oppression is glorified in American culture), is gravely discouraged at the best of times, and punished at the worst.

In the case of Pham (and the Korean immigrants in the 1992 pogrom), they were doing what any decent father would do; defending their families. That makes Pham a hero in my book.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Five Little Words

Shit Asian Girls Say to Asian Men

A commenter (mwei) linked to this video that made me cackle! Enjoy......

I think that most Asian guys living in America have been told all or most of these things by some Asian girl or another at some point in their lives. I've had this experience twice and both times the girls involved embarrassed themselves more than they bothered me.

The first time this happened I was on a road trip and had stopped at a 711 type store, somewhere in Houston. As I came out I noticed an Asian girl walking in. Since she was also Asian I presumed that she wouldn't mind helping a brother with directions. LOL. As I got closer and as I said "Excuse me" she turned her nose up and said "I like white guys" and brushed past me. Then an older white dude who I hadn't noticed walking just behind her asked me if I needed something and so I asked him for the directions. He seemed happy to help me. Funny thing was, he turned out to be her partner or friend and seemed embarrassed by her behaviour and was actually decent enough to fuss at her for being rude. She blushed and blinked sheepishly.

The second time this happened was even more bizarre. A white girl I was dating had an uncle in his fifties who had recently married an Asian-American girl of 26, and he thought it would be a good idea to to have my girlfriend and I over for dinner since there was this "Asian connection thingy". Well it wasn't a good idea. Apparently, he hadn't told his wife that I was Asian - I think he wanted to surprise her with how progressive his family was - so guess what she said when she saw me? That's right, as I reached out my hand to greet her she said something like "I like white guys!" and then looked at me with confusion (who knows why she was confused - even more importantly, who cares?). I looked over at my girlfriend and then at her uncle and I could see that they were wearing the same tight, mirthless, smile that I knew was spread across my face. Anyways, it was an uncomfortable night, with a lot of tight smiles, fake mutual interest, and disingenuous calls to "do it again sometime". But at least the food seemed authentic.

Hope you enjoyed the video and it made you laugh. That is one of the first steps in getting passed this IR disparity thing - laugh at people like that, then ignore them, and finally find a voice that makes you a shaper of the culture that brought about the situation that makes people ashamed and embarrassed to be with others of their own race.

I don't write (or even think) about the IR disparity with anger because I just don't care who people date or marry. And I think that the endless discussions about it do little to change the situation and may, in fact, harm the community because all the other issues that we face receive far less attention or even passion than this one subject. The fact is, you can't change people, you just can't and the more you tell people that something is bad or not to your liking, then the more they will want to do it. Yet, there is no doubt that if a situation exists within a society in which it is considered shameful, undesirable, or embarrassing to date or marry others like yourself then there is something seriously wrong.

But that doesn't mean we should set out on pointless rants at individuals because that changes nothing  - remember it is almost impossible to convince someone out of something that they believe. You can't force an alcoholic into sobriety, and you can't force someone who has been inculcated with demeaning stereotypes about their race to not feel shame about their race. People cannot and will not be changed according to someone else's will.

I think it is actually far easier to change a culture than to change an individual, and if you do want individuals to agree your way of thinking, then it is their culture that you have to change because people follow the trends of their culture. If you let yourself be dragged down into the dialog of the IR disparity and the flighty choices of Asian quasi-feminism then you're allowing the society that demeans you to dictate your voice and purpose. Even worse, you are giving too much voice and influence to people who have little to say other than "I only date white guys". Airheads have the most influential voices in our community because everyone reacts to those five little words. It's no wonder Asians catch a lot of shit.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Are Asians Becoming Whiter?

The Diversity Paradox.

I recently finished a book called "The Diversity Paradox" written by couple of sociologists (I believe) that collates information taken from the most recent census and extrapolates on the changing face of America's ethnic make-up and the way in which this is changing America's view of race and race relations. The study asks how, or if, the increasing numbers of immigrants from Latin America and Asia are changing white America's relationships and attitudes towards its ethnic minorities and suggests that high inter-marriage between Asians or Latinos with whites might be creating a new ethnic line of demarcation in which whites, Asians, and Latinos fall on one side of the barrier, and a disadvantaged black group on the other.

Overall, I thought that the book was very thoroughly researched but I found myself noticing that many of the suggested conclusions of the study defied my observations and presented an overly optimistic (and, even unrealistic) view of the nature of race-relations in America, both in the present and for the future, and seemed to overlook some vital aspects of the Asian-American experience that might have cast doubt on the book's conclusions.

For instance, having spent almost the entire book exploring the idea that high out-marriage rates of Asian-Americans (women, that is) might indicate a blurring of the boundary between white and Asian groups and be leading to greater integration and assimilation (and hence, I presume, greater tolerance), the authors add a half paragraph disclaimer at the back of the book that "there are gender differences (in out-marriage rates) that require further study". Uh-huh. That, to me, renders the conclusions of the previous chapters somewhat inconclusive. But more about this later.

To cover this book, I've focused on two conclusions the study makes, one of which I thought was contentious the other was simply worthy of comment, so I'm not claiming this to be a comprehensive critique.

The first point that the book makes and with which I agree, is the observation that immigrants choose to align with whiteness as opposed to blackness. This is interesting because at the time of early Asian immigration, although blacks were classified as citizens, Asians argued for citizenship based on the idea that they were white and thus eligible even though they could have just have easily (and who knows, perhaps more successfully) argued that they were eligible based on being "black".

So, almost built into the process of acceptance into the privileged class (particularly for a visible minority like Asians) involved an implicit acknowledgement, and perhaps even acquiescence to the notion of an inevitable inferior social status of the black under-class. Interestingly, even since the early days of non-European immigration America's racism created a perceived need for separation amongst its visible minorities as one of the means to maintain the racial hierarchy.  In recent years, there has been a blurring of this phenomenon, in the sense that aligning with blacks culturally has become fashionable, although it has to be said that white Americans seem as likely to do this as are immigrant groups.

It is also interesting to note that for Asian-Americans in the culture business, this process of aligning with whiteness has become the most likely avenue of success for those aspiring to mainstream recognition. Hence, much creative work produced by Asian-Americans involves an exaggerated depiction of Asian cultural and human backwardness, an obsequious deference to an imagined concept of white cultural perfection, as well as an almost universal absence of non-white and non-Asian characters, and even perhaps a deliberate blindness to wider social issues that might highlight negative aspects of the white culture that is being aspired to.

The next point of interest is the suggestion that inter-marriage indicates blurring of racial and social boundaries and even, perhaps, acceptance into mainstream society and can be seen as the final step to full assimilation. According to sociologists inter-marriage is the final boundary that is overcome by immigrant groups leading to full integration or assimilation. Recalling the experiences of immigrants from Ireland, Italy, and Eastern Europe, it had been noted that inter-marriage seemed to be an indication of society's acceptance of these groups as true Americans and led (or coincided) with increased prosperity and social empowerment. Yet, I cannot help but feel as though applying this reasoning to Asian-Americans ignores huge aspects of the Asian experience that were not faced by these earlier Caucasian immigrants, and which continue to be a barrier to Asian-Americans in the present.

Because Asian-Americans grow up in a society that routinely denigrates them, their race, racial characteristics, and their cultures, many of them develope negative attitudes towards themselves and others who look like them. This attitude is often and routinely expressed by Asian-Americans from internet forums and online communities, to works of literature and film but the fact is that Asian children in America learn one thing from American culture and that is to feel shame and embarrassment about themselves. It is a constant stream of exposure to the ubiquitous portrayals and images of Asian deficiencies that proliferate throughout American culture that is the basis upon which many Asians form their ideas about themselves and their identities - naturally they tend not to hold their cultures, race, or even themselves, in high esteem.

This can only place doubt on the conclusion that inter-marriage with Asian-Americans somehow diminishes negative attitudes, or increases tolerance towards Asians because, quite simply, many Asians themselves adopt these negative attitudes. So even though at this point I couldn't state categorically that Asian high out-marriage rates do not increase tolerance, I think it is reasonable to say that cultural denigration of Asians creates a sense of shame and a desire for distance from their culture of origin and ethnicity. Anecdotally, I (and I'm sure many of you) have encountered a good number of Asian-Americans (both who out-date/marry or do not) who, at best, have few positive things to say about Asians, or at worst, are almost vehement in their hostility to their own race or culture. And, no, it's not just date-only-white-guys-Asian women who do this!

Of course, for the Asian minority, high out-marriage rates occur predominantly between Asian women and white men, whilst out-marriage rates for Asian men are relatively low. This should cast some degree of doubt on the conclusion of it being an indicator of improved attitudes because, historically, anti-miscegenation laws and attitudes were primarily designed to prevent white women from marrying or having relationships with minority men, whilst at the same time, white men were routinely engaging in miscegenation with black or Asian women. Because anti-miscegenation had traditionally focused on preventing Asian men from assimilating into mainstream culture it would seem more reasonable to take out-marriage rates for Asian men as a more accurate gauge of a general decrease in negative attitudes.

These out-marriage differences within the Asian community suggests that, at best, it might be more accurate to say that in addition to racial lines that are being re-drawn, for the Asian community there is also a gender line being drawn within the community, with Asian women having smoother access to, and therefore falling on, the "white" side of the divide and Asian men outside of it. The gender imbalance in out-marriage rates for Asian men and women only indicates that it is, perhaps, Asian women who are being "promoted" into whiteness and that the gender differences that are perfunctorily acknowledged at the end of the book is actually indicative of an increasingly profound social separation between Asian men and women. You can think of this as a kind of model minority within a model minority.

Consider also that it has been estimated that between 1945 and 1965 there was something in the region of 100,000 marriages between American G.Is and Asian "war brides", yet, during that period and the subsequent twenty years, attitudes towards Asians didn't really improve and it could be argued that anti-Asianism increased beginning around the late 1970's and continuing, perhaps to this day. So altogether I think it is a dubious claim that inter-marriage carries with it an implicit and inevitable decrease in negative attitudes towards Asians - if high out-marriage rates of Asian women in the 1950's and 60's didn't decrease racism, why should we reasonably believe that it is having this effect now?.

Finally, the biggest obstacle to the Asian minority becoming fully accepted and assimilated (and which is not addressed in the book) lies in the unique political and historical relationship between the US and various Asian countries. Historically, America's attitude towards Asia is founded on its past colonial aspirations. Because America has historically seen itself in civilizational conflict with Asian nations, its attitudes towards Asian people has been and remains, combative, uncompromising, xenophobic, hostile, and intolerant. This is evident to this day - political rhetoric often exhibits these types of qualities and, as I often point out, American culture is suffused with a sadistic violence in its portrayals of Asian men. In fact, recent studies that show Asian children experience high levels of racial harassment from peers and that in the workplace Asians are harassed for any reason, would also indicate that the high inter-marriage rates have so far done little to promote tolerance.

Because immigrants from Europe have never had to overcome this type of civilizational antagonism they have not had to endure the protracted xenophobic stereotyping, political combativeness, and uncompromising hostility that characterizes the Asian experience. I would suggest that anti-Asian attitudes are as common and widely-held now as they were at the time of the Exclusion Acts and the Second World War. It is because Asian children are exposed to hateful images and stereotypes that many of them adopt these same attitudes making it highly plausible that marrying an Asian-American is unlikely to contribute to an increase tolerance or positive attitudes towards Asian people.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Hollywood's Anti-Asian Tourette's

Hitting Chinese Is Fun.
I came across this article just today from the ever-Sino-xenophobic British news site, The Daily Mail, in which we learn that China is censoring around 15 minute long scene from the movie, Men In Black III. Funnily enough, I just saw this movie this past weekend and was in the process of writing a post about this very scene! Apparently, China's censors have taken exception to the scene for seemingly vastly different reasons than I have - that is if you choose to believe the spin from an explicitly hostile-to-East-Asians publication.

In the offending scene the two heroes - Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones - enter a typically Hollywood hate-inspired version of a Chinese restaurant (complete with disgusting hygiene, disgusting food sources, and dirty Chinese employees) and proceed to interrogate the restaurant's owner, who, it turns out happens to be an actual slimy alien, as opposed to an actual slimy Chinaman. Either way, he is a filthy and disgusting alien possessing none of the common values of decency, hygiene, and courage, that America holds dear. In fact, he possesses the same characteristics that America most often attributes to Asian people (especially men), so, even though he is an alien in disguise as an Asian, he actually possesses the disgusting qualities that Hollywood also insists Asians possess.

Almost as an inevitable consequence of this self-evident lack of humanity the Chinese, alien, Chinese Alien is violently interrogated by Tommy Lee Jones during which he is repeatedly hit about the head with an object and ridiculed, with Will Smith in the background making light of the whole mindless and casually violent episode with his cheerful quippiness. In the ensuing fight all of the "Chinese" employees turn out to be aliens and suffer an epic ass-whipping - one of whom is brutally beaten with a pan until he falls to ground dead, the side of his head caved in.

Of course, there is a kind of absurd violence that is characteristic of the whole Men In Black franchise - the fight scenes are filled with aliens who explode into a green goo or whose deaths are cartoonishly gruesome - but you won't find many (if any at all) with the sadistic brutality exhibited in the restaurant scene. American culture has a perverse love for this type of explicit depiction of cold, frenzied violence against Asian men and it may be the most common manner in which Asian men are represented in Americas's media. In fact, as this fight scene from the 1950's movie, The Manchurian Candidate, the depiction of sadistic violence against Asian men has been popular for decades.........

That scene was one of the first instances where I had seen any kind of depiction of an Asian man and the experience opened my eyes - especially that maniacal sadism at the end in which the Asian man lies defeated at Sinatra's feet receiving his brutal comeuppance for not knowing his place. What I came to realize is that America, as expressed through its culture, views itself as being locked in some kind of heroic conflict with Asia in which any and all means of violence are justified. This is as true now as it was in the 1950's, and has been true ever since the first Western warships sailed into Asian ports to claim Asian territories for themselves.

It should come as no surprise that the Asian-American experience in the 21st Century is often characterized by frenzied violence arising seemingly out of nowhere and manifesting as random acts of sadistic rage, yet paradoxically - and chillingly - there is a casualness about anti-Asian violence that is empowered by widespread social indifference. These types of depictions document, propagate, and perhaps even create, America's cultural  acceptance and maybe even desire for violence against Asian people.

In fact, I would suggest that this attitude is so ingrained in Americas's consciousness that it has become integral to the American identity, so much so that these American expressions of "two minutes hate" have a "Tourettes" quality about them. This example from the Men In Black is a clear case of this - the whole scene would have worked just as well without the sadistic violence, which seems to manifest out of nowhere, for no reason pertinent to the plot, and for no other reason than to express sadistic violence towards Asians yet occurring almost reflexively.

Of course, none of this would seem relevant if it weren't for the fact that violence towards Asians seems to be a normalized and an accepted mode of interaction for mainstream Americans with its East Asian minority. Racially biased bullying and violence towards Asian children in America's schools is extremely common and often goes unaddressed by school authorities. Mirroring widespread movie depictions of comically casual, sadistic, violence, some Asian kids are beaten for the fun of it. Then there's the hilarious practice of throwing old Asian people onto train tracks. Of course, there is the racially inflected harassment and  violence towards Asian merchants both in the inner cities and the suburbs as well as escalating degrees of harassment in the workplace. Everywhere you look the violence and harassment of Asian people is characterized by its casualness and often sheer sadistic enjoyment in its perpetration.

At this point a causative relationship between casual violence against Asians in the media and real life hasn't been determined (but who is investigating?), but there's little doubt that the absence of mainstream opposition suggests that America is comfortable, or even enjoys, the fantasy of inflicting sadistic violence on Asian men. Consider, for example, if the characters at the receiving end of this violence in the Men In Black movie had been African-American - my guess is that it wouldn't have made it passed the editing room.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Some White Women Like Asian Guys.

A Good Reason To Struggle Academically?

I probably shouldn't be so facetious about this story but I'll say what many of us are thinking but might not feel comfortable expressing! According to this story (and here) a married 36-year-old teacher engaged in a sexual relationship with her 16-year-old-student.........
[the] high-school English teacher allegedly plied their son with cannabis and repeatedly had sex with him in her office....Married teacher Erin Sayar, 36, was meant to be tutoring Kevin Eng twice a week at James Madison High School in Brooklyn, New York - but their relationship quickly took a sexual turn.
I'm sure that many sixteen-year-olds would consider this to be the perfect girlfriend. The teacher carried out a year-long affair with student, Kevin Eng (whom I presume is Asian), whilst she was suppose to be tutoring him. The affair was discovered after the student's girlfriend became suspicious after witnessing the couple flirting with each other, and then alerted authorities. Killjoy.

The truth is, when guys hear stories of 16 year-old boys being seduced by their teachers we tend to be far less disgusted by it than if we hear of a male teacher taking advantage of a 16 year-old girl. The reason is that many of us could only have wished that one of our own hot teachers would have given us cannabis and seduced us when we were sixteen.

Personally, I wouldn't have complained if a female teacher had shown that kind of interest. Of course, if I were a parent I would imagine that there is a great degree of anxiety over trust being broken and that is understandable. But, I wonder if the student involved will ever come to feel as though he was taken advantage of, or if he will remember the whole experience with fondness? Maybe that's a dumb question.